Income Withholding from Federal Employees Working on Indian Reservations
DATE: February 11, 2002
TO: STATE AGENCIES ADMINISTERING CHILD SUPPORT ENFORCEMENT PLANS UNDER TITLE IV-D OF THE SOCIAL SECURITY ACT AND OTHER INTERESTED INDIVIDUALS
SUBJECT: INCOME WITHHOLDING FROM FEDERAL EMPLOYEES WORKING ON INDIAN RESERVATIONS
BACKGROUND:A report by the Office of Inspector General (OIG) for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, "Withholding Child Support Obligations from Departmental Employees," dated October 2001, evaluated whether states have identified Federal employees from the National Directory of New Hires matches, and subsequently issued income-withholding orders upon learning of such employment. The report found that some Federal employees without income-withholding were with the Indian Health Service (IHS). The OIG found that state caseworkers are reluctant to act on cases involving members of Indian tribes, because they are unaware that they have authority to initiate income-withholding on American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN) obligors who are Federal employees.
At the recommendation of the OIG, this memorandum is a reminder that states can initiate income-withholding on tribal and non-tribal Federal employees working on reservations. The Federal government has the authority to withhold wages from any Federal employee for the payment of child support, regardless of AI/AN tribal membership, residency, or employment on a reservation. This authority can be found in Section 459 of the Social Security Act as well as Office of Personnel Management regulations at 5 CFR 581. Therefore, states should not hesitate to issue an income-withholding order on Federal employees, even if they work on reservations or are tribal members.
This policy applies to all Federal employees on tribal reservations regardless of whether they are employed with the IHS, Bureau of Indian Affairs, United States Fish and Wildlife Service, Housing and Urban Development, Department of Labor, or any other Federal agency.
States can verify that an individual is an IHS employee through the IHS web site. Scan down the home page to "Area Offices and Facilities" and "Find an IHS Employee." The site also includes the addresses and telephone numbers of the 12 IHS area offices, where states can also verify employment.
State child support agencies should address the income-withholding order to the designated agent for the appropriate Federal agency. OCSE automatically reports to states the address for income-withholding when there is a match between OCSE's Federal Case Registry of all child support enforcement cases and the National Directory of New Hires. These addresses are also available on the OCSE/NDNH web site. States are encouraged to hardcode these addresses into their child support systems so that an income-withholding order is automatically generated to the appropriate address.
Sherri Z. Heller, Ed.D.
Office of Child Support Enforcement